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Navy sailor faces court martial for blaze that destroyed USS Bonhomme Richard

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Firefighters work to extinguish a blaze aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego on July 12, 2020. Sailor Ryan Sawyer Mays faces an arson charge in his court martial, which began Monday in San Diego, Calif. File Photo by MC3 Christina Ross/U.S. Navy/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/7754b6fd0e6d51dd34e1c573167cded2/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Firefighters work to extinguish a blaze aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego on July 12, 2020. Sailor Ryan Sawyer Mays faces an arson charge in his court martial, which began Monday in San Diego, Calif. File Photo by MC3 Christina Ross/U.S. Navy/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 19 (UPI) -- A sailor accused of retaliating against the U.S. Navy by setting the USS Bonhomme Richard on fire two years ago -- basically destroying the $1.5 billion warship -- was scheduled to begin his court martial on Monday.

Navy Seaman Apprentice Ryan Sawyer Mays faces charges of aggravated arson and willful hazarding of a vessel at the court martial, which is being held in San Diego.

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The charges stem from the fire on the USS Bonhomme Richard in July 2020, which military prosecutors argue that Mays started because he'd washed out as a Navy SEAL candidate.

At the time of the fire, the warship was undergoing a $250 million upgrade and had more than 100 sailors on board. About half of them were treated for smoke inhalation and heat exposure, but there were no serious injuries.

Acrid smoke billows from the blaze aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego on July 12, 2020. File Photo by Austin Haist/U.S. Navy/UPI

The blaze on the USS Bonhomme Richard burned for five days and was eventually scrapped, due mainly to the heavy costs it would take to make the ship seaworthy again.

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In July, the Navy reprimanded more than other 20 sailors, including the ship's top commanders, for failing to respond appropriately to the fire. Mays is the only person facing criminal charges in the case.

A naval investigation into the fire concluded that improper training, lack of oversight and inadequate maintenance contributed to the loss of the ship.

RELATED Report finds USS Bonhomme Richard crew lacked training to combat 2020 fire

"The ship was lost due to an inability to extinguish the fire," the report said.

The USS Bonhomme Richard -- which was commissioned in 1998 and cost about $1.4 billion -- was a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship named after John Paul Jones' Continental Navy frigate in the 1700s. It was decommissioned in April 2021 after estimates said that repairs could cost as much as $4 billion.

Mays' trial at Naval Base San Diego is expected to last about two weeks.

RELATED Navy charges sailor in 2020 Bonhomme Richard fire

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